Christmas 2022: The Greatest Gift

Here’s the link to the beginning of the story (

“We’re going where?” Declan asked, climbing into the back seat.

“To the nursing home. There are some people there I want you to meet,” said his grandfather.

“A nursing home? I thought you said we were going someplace fun?”

“You’d be surprised at how much fun some of those people have. And the ones I want you to meet are the most fun.”

Twenty minutes later, they pulled into the lot. Snow began to fall and the wind picked up a bit. The two hurried from the car and into the entrance. A receptionist at the front desk looked up.

“Oh boy,” she said. “I knew it was only a matter of time before you showed up.” She came from around the desk and stood with her hands on her hips. “We’re not going to repeat last year’s episode, are we? It took me a week to get things back to normal.”

Declan’s grandfather smiled. “Now Kristen, it was just small parade to let everyone see the decorations.”

“Yeah, well no parade this year. Let’s keep it a quiet Christmas, okay?”

Declan’s grandfather took a step forward, put his hands behind his back, crossed his fingers, and said, “Of course, Kristen. There will be nothing like last year.”

Taking Declan’s hand, they headed down the corridor.

“Grandpa, doesn’t crossing your fingers mean your not telling the truth?”

“It means, my boy, that the annual Christmas celebration is a tradition we’re going to enjoy whether she likes it or not. Nobody said it had to be a parade.” He stopped on front of a door, reached into his coat, and pulled out a Santa hat with a sprig of mistletoe hanging from a wire.

“What’s that?”

“Don’t you know about mistletoe? If someone stands underneath it, you have to kiss them. I wear it for all the girls.”

“Ewww, gross. I don’t want to kiss any girls”

His grandfather laughed. “You say that now, but it a few years you’ll be asking to borrow this hat. Now let’s go.”

Opening the door, they walked into a room crowded with wheelchairs and people shuffling about with walkers. “Let’s get this party started!” His grandfather yelled and put on music on his cellphone.

“Declan, this is my friend, George. We were in the Marine Corps together. And this is his wife, Jeanne.” He turned to face the couple. “George, Jeanne, this is my grandson Declan. He says he is old now and doesn’t quite feel the Christmas spirit anymore. Perhaps you could tell him about it.”

“Come here, son,” George said, “sit next to us and I’ll tell you a story.”

As Declan sat down, he saw his grandfather lining up wheelchairs and walkers in a big circle and handing out candy, noisemakers, and red and green confetti.

George and Jeanne started to tell the story, one of them would start a sentence and the other would finish. They told stories of Christmases when they were small children. They told stories of when George was away in Vietnam and Jeanne was home alone with the kids. They told stories of not having enough money to buy presents. They told stories about one Christmas when Jeanne was ill and they didn’t know if she would make it.

Their stories seemed to go on forever, but Declan started to get a feeling that by telling the stories they were reliving those moments of their lives most important to them.

Declan’s grandfather came back over. He winked at Declan, shook George’s hand, bent over and gave Jeanne a kiss under the mistletoe, then turned to face the crowd.

“Ready?” he asked the crowd.

“Ready,” they shouted.

Turning the music up loud, Jingle Bells echoed through the hall. A moment later the door burst open and Kristen, leading several of the nurses, barged in.

“Merry Christmas,” everyone yelled, tossing confetti and ringing bells.

Declan’s grandfather walked over to Kristen. “See, I told you there was no parade.”

Kristen laughed. “Merry Christmas, Tom,” and kissed him on the cheek…

On the way home, Declan said. “George and Jeanne have a lot of stories about Christmas. Some of them were almost sad, but they seemed to love each of them.”

“Declan, one of the most important things about Christmas are the memories. Not all will be great memories, life has a way sometimes of being difficult, but they are cherished memories to those who hold them. And sharing those memories is one of the most precious gifts one can give to another. In fact, I would say it is the greatest gift.”

He glanced in the mirror to see Declan’s face. “Do you understand?”

Declan nodded. “I think so. They held onto the spirit of Christmas all their lives. Even after they grew old.”

“That’s all there is to it, Declan…”

Tomorrow: And Christmases Yet to Come.

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